being right

March 13, 2012

Sometimes I want to be right more than I want what is right. I’m not sure why. It’s not something anyone taught me. It’s just something I picked up along the way I guess. It’s not even like I do it for any particular reason. Say, for the sake of feeling more intelligent than someone, or getting to raise my hands clasped above my head in celebration? No. Then for what? Why do I continue to feed this need to be right? Has it ever gotten me anything? Actually, when I stop and think about it, it has. It’s gotten me an argument with my wife, an embarrassed and hurt look on the face of a co-worker, and painful, apology filled conversation with my parents. Things I can honestly say I would rather have done without. And yet for some reason I haven’t learned my lesson. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one. This need that I have, perhaps that we have, I think illustrates a few things.

First, that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I know there are those who would disagree with me, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But I truly believe that there is something inside us that knows when something is wrong. Otherwise being right would be more fun, wouldn’t it? If it didn’t feel wrong to demean someone or to gain something at someone else’s expense, we’d all be addicted to being right. But we’re not, and I think it’s because that knot in the pit of our stomach, that string tugging at our heart, that chemical rushing to our brain causing us to feel “wrong”, was put there on purpose. Put there to remind us that it’s not always best to be right. That sometimes putting other people first or giving someone a chance can be more important. Its why place value on things like compromise and sacrifice, because somehow we know that those things are better than their alternatives. It’s also why survival of the fittest isn’t our default position when it comes down to it. It’s why we rally to help each other when an earthquake rocks the lives of people we’ve never met half way around the world. Because it’s right, and there is wrong and we all live like we know the difference.

Secondly, our need to be right reveals our desire to be loved and accepted. C.S. Lewis used to say that our hunger pains are evidence for the existence of food. In the same way I think our desire to be right is evidence that you and I we want people to like us, to think highly of us, and to place a value on our existence. There are levels of this of course. My wife and I are perfect examples. I need people to like me. I will go out of my way to please someone or to avoid confronting them. I will go out of my way to make sure that I don’t upset people, or rock the boat as it were. She on the other hand is much less concerned about how other people think of her. She is confident and willing to take risks. She is honest with people about what she thinks and how she feels. There are of course positives and negatives to both and neither one is better than the other. But when it really comes down to it, one thing both share is the desire to be loved and accepted above all else. To know that there is someone else out there who cares about us and about what happens to us. It’s why people still want to get married, and why having mom or dad at our ballgame or concert means more than what we get for our allowance. We all want to be loved, its part of who we are.

Lastly, I think our need to be right, demonstrates the amazing concept of grace. The fact that I need to be right will eventually mean, that I need you to forgive me when I am wrong. It’s a simple premise, but an overpowering experience. To be forgiven is to be set free. To be released by someone else, from a bond we could not break on our own. There is perhaps no more pure a display of love, than to another grace. There may not be a more meaningful or important thing ever written than the words of the Apostle Paul in the fifth chapter of Romans.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…. but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Grace is something you don’t deserve, and you can never earn. That’s what makes it so amazing, and why it should humble us more than seems it does.

The truth is I like being right, we all do. It feels good and it causes us to be more confident in who we are. But as much as we want to be right, it’s doing what is right that makes this world a better place – it’s who and what we designed to be. And so if only just this once, I think its ok that I know I’m right.

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